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Tag:Jeff Borzello
Posted on: March 4, 2012 8:49 pm
 

Pac-12 a one-bid league? It's possible

With Cal, Arizona and Washington all losing this weekend, the Pac-12 is in at-large trouble. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

The mediocrity of the Pac-12 has been a running joke in the college basketball world this season, but this weekend took it to a new level.

Washington lost to UCLA, but still won the outright regular-season championship after California lost to Stanford on Sunday evening. Arizona, which had seen its at-large hopes get better and better recently, lost to Arizona State. The only team that helped its Selection Sunday chances was Oregon, which put a whooping on Utah.

The chances that the Pac-12 was only going to get one bid to the NCAA tournament seemed pretty low prior to the weekend, but now it’s not a far-fetched idea. To be honest, no one should feel remotely comfortable about its at-large chances heading into the conference tournament.

Let’s look at the resumes, in the correct pecking order.

California: The Golden Bears clearly have the best at-large resume of the quartet, and also went 3-0 against Oregon and Washington. The computer profile is pretty solid, and they are 6-5 against the top 100. On the other side, they have three sub-100 losses and didn’t finish with a share of the league title. The non-conference profile is also mediocre, as the best win outside of the Pac-12 was over Weber State. They probably felt safe for much of the season, but there’s still work to be done.

Washington: The Huskies don’t have a great profile, but they nonetheless won the outright regular-season championship, which will be a great bargaining chip on Selection Sunday. They are only 1-6 against the top 50 and 3-8 against the top 100. The only bad loss was Saturday’s defeat at the hands of UCLA. Overall, the Huskies did not beat a single NCAA tournament team, as the best non-league wins are over UC-Santa Barbara and Georgia State. Those are their only two non-conference wins over teams ranked in the top 200 of the RPI.

Oregon: The Ducks have slowly but surely played themselves into at-large contention over the past month, winning 11 of their last 14 games. Moreover, they thumped Washington by 25 points in early February. The RPI has moved into the top 50, as well. Now, for the bad. 19 of their 22 wins are over teams ranked outside the top 100, and they are 0-5 vs. the top 50. There’s one sub-100 loss, a home defeat to Oregon State. The non-conference profile is barren, with the best wins coming over Nebraska and UTEP. The thing that complicates their profile is Devoe Joseph, who missed the first six games of the season.

Arizona: The Wildcats are essentially finished when it comes to an at-large bid, after their terrible loss at Arizona State. It dropped them to fourth in the Pac-12, and is a sub-250 loss. The computer profile is mediocre, and 17 of their 21 wins came from outside the top 100. There is a road win at California on the ledger, but that won’t carry them to a bid. Arizona now needs to win the Pac-12 tournament if it wants a bid.

Can the Pac-12 really only get one bid? If California wins the tournament, it’s possible.

Posted on: March 4, 2012 7:16 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 7:59 pm
 

Despite flaws, Ohio St. still a Final Four threat

By Jeff Borzello

We’ve been hearing it all year, but it had been getting louder recently. The talk about Jared Sullinger not being as dominant as last season, the talk about William Buford’s inconsistency, the talk about the lack of 3-point shooters, the talk about a lack of toughness and chemistry.

Well, despite the supposed flaws and weaknesses, one thing is clear: Ohio State is still a Final Four-caliber team.

The Buckeyes demonstrated that potential during their 15-point comeback and late victory at Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. Sullinger struggled, but still managed to get 14 points and 10 rebounds. Buford made big shot after big shot down the stretch, including the game-winner with 1.0 seconds left. Aaron Craft had seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.

This team has the pieces. Sullinger is still a hoss on the low block, capable of carrying Ohio State on the offensive end and getting opposing big men in foul trouble. He hasn’t been as effective as he was last season, but he’s still one of the nation’s best big men.

When Buford is hitting shots, he’s nearly impossible to guard. He steps up at clutch times, and is not afraid to take the big shot. Buford has deep range on his shot and can create his own look and get separation for pull-up jumpers.

Craft might not be a shot-maker, but he’s still one of the toughest point guards in the country. He’s a pest defensively, and completely takes opponents out of their preferred offensive sets. Aside from a few transition layups, Keith Appling really struggled as a result of Craft’s defensive intensity.

The X-factor going forward could be Deshaun Thomas. He can knock down 3-pointers, and has really picked up his play of late. Prior to the Michigan State contest, he was averaging 21.5 points in his last four games. Thomas is difficult to guard because of the multiple ways in which he can get off shots.

Of course, there is also that Ohio State defense. The Buckeyes are extremely efficient at that end of the floor, dominating the defensive glass and forcing turnovers at a high rate. They also limit fouls, which is why Thad Matta isn’t forced to go to his bench very often. Ohio State didn’t allow Draymond Green to control the game, which helped slow down Michigan State’s offense in the second half. Moreover, the Buckeyes made a concerted effort to get back on defense after the Spartans beat them down the floor for easy transition baskets early on.

When a team has studs at the point guard position, on the wing and inside, they are a team no one wants to face come March. That’s exactly what Ohio State has – and then some.

There are certainly some flaws, but the Buckeyes proved on Sunday that they are still a major threat to reach New Orleans. 

Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:14 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:53 pm
 

What-to-know conference previews: MAC

Year in and year out, there might not be a more consistently competitive league than the Mid-American Conference. Or more specially, the East Division of the Mid-American Conference. It’s rare you see a team run away with the title, and this season was no different.

Akron came out with the regular-season championship, winning it by one game over Buffalo. Division brethren Ohio, Kent State and Bowling Green also all finished above .500 in the conference. The Zips head into the tournament as the favorite, but they lost three of their last five games after starting 11-1 within the league. Akron guards the perimeter extremely well, but the Zips are susceptible on the inside and on the defensive glass. Akron is a balanced outfit, with no one averaging more than 10.3 points. 7-footer Zeke Marshall is a tough matchup, though, at both ends of the floor.

Buffalo beat Akron twice and boasts the league’s best duo in forwards Mitchell Watt and Javon McCrea. Both players are very efficient and are capable of carrying the Bulls offensively and on the glass. The key for Buffalo will be turnovers; the Bulls need to take care of the ball.

Ohio has won five of its last six games to end the season, and guard D.J. Cooper is one of the best players in the conference. The Bobcats force turnovers and play an aggressive – and foul-prone – brand of defense. A sleeper could be Bowling Green, which won seven of its last 10 to end the season. The Falcons are led by A’uston Calhoun and Scott Thomas.

Expect an intense race for the bid, which is nothing new for the MAC.

****

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

Title game: Saturday, March 10 on ESPN2 (8 p.m., ET)

BEST PLAYERS

  1. Julian Mavunga, Miami (Ohio)
  2. Rian Pearson, Toledo
  3. D.J. Cooper, Ohio
  4. Jarrod Jones, Ball State
  5. Mitchell Watt, Buffalo

Conference RPI: 17

KenPom.com rating: 17

Sagarin rating: 15

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances

  • Akron Zips: 2011, No. 15 seed, lost to Notre Dame 69-56 in the first round.
  • Ball State Cardinals: 2000, No. 11 seed, lost to UCLA 65-57 in the first round.
  • Bowling Green Falcons: 1968, lost to Marquette 72-71 in the first round.
  • Buffalo Bulls: N/A.
  • Central Michigan Chippewas: 2003, No. 11 seed, beat Creighton 79-73 in the first round, followed by an 86-60 loss to Duke in the second round.
  • Eastern Michigan Eagles: 1998, No. 13 seed, lost to Michigan State 83-71 in the first round.
  • Kent State Golden Flashes: 2008, No. 9 seed, lost to UNLV 71-58 in the first round.
  • Miami (Ohio) RedHawks: 2007, No. 14 seed, lost to Oregon 58-56 in the first round.
  • Northern Illinois Huskies: 1996, No. 14 seed, lost to Texas Tech 74-73 in the first round.
  • Ohio Bobcats: 2010, No. 14 seed, beat Georgetown 97-83 in the first round, followed by an 83-68 loss to Tennessee in the second round.
  • Toledo Rockets: 1980, No. 9 seed, lost to Florida State 94-91 in the first round.
  • Western Michigan Broncos: 2004, No. 11 seed, lost to Vanderbilt 71-58 in the first round.

- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 3, 2012 4:39 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: Murray State

Bubble teams everywhere rejoiced on Saturday afternoon, as Murray State came from behind in the second half to beat Tennessee State in the Ohio Valley championship game. With the Racers already set for an at-large slot if they lost, the win prevented the OVC from getting two bids.

Murray State lost only one game all season, a close game to Tennessee State in early February. The Racers started 23-0 and were the last team to lose in college basketball this year. They are very efficient at both ends of the floor, with the ability to score in different ways offensively and also forcing turnovers and contesting shots at the other end.

Despite their gaudy record, there are some people who don’t believe in Murray State’s NCAA tournament potential. However, with multiple scoring options and an All-American in Isaiah Canaan, it’s tough to count them out in any game. First-year head coach Steve Prohm has done a tremendous job since taking over the program, and is a candidate for Coach of the Year.

Player to know: Isaiah Canaan. The explosive scoring guard is an All-American and capable of carrying the Racers on the offensive end. He’s difficult to stop due to his ability to drive and his deep range. Canaan is averaging better than 19 points per game and shooting 48.2 percent on 3-pointers.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 27-1 overall, 15-1 in Ohio Valley
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 13 seed, beat Vanderbilt 66-65 in the first round, followed by a 54-52 loss to Butler in the second round.
  • We’re thinking: 5
  • KenPom ranking: 47
  • Sagarin ranking: 41
  • RPI: 24
  • Best wins: Memphis, Saint Mary’s
  • Worst losses: Tennessee State
  • Notable stat: Murray State is one of the best shooting teams in the country, knocking down 41.4 of its long-range attempts.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 3, 2012 3:04 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 11:02 pm
 

Poppin' Bubbles: Statement time for bubblers

Iowa State answered all remaining questions about its at-large candidacy with a win over Baylor. (AP)

By Jeff Borzello

Saturday is not just for Duke vs. North Carolina and a trio of conference championship games. The final weekend of the regular season has bubble implications galore. There are intriguing bubble battles, chances for bubble teams to get big wins and other spots where bubble teams just simply can’t lose if they want an at-large bid. For some teams, losing might mean their hopes are dashed even before the conference tournament.

Note: This page will be updated throughout the day, with bubble discussion and analysis.

Locking things up

Memphis: The Tigers are all set after clinching the outright Conference-USA regular-season title with a win at Tulsa on Saturday. They finished the conference season with a 13-3 record, have a top-20 RPI and SOS, and own nine top-100 victories. They could wear home jerseys for the first round of the NCAA tournament at this point.

Saint Louis: The Billikens essentially clinched things with their win over Xavier earlier in the week, but avoiding a loss at Duquesne – without head coach Rick Majerus – on Saturday cements things even more. There aren’t any truly marquee wins, but an 8-4 record against the top 100 and a top-30 RPI will get the job done.

Iowa State: If there was any debate about whether the Cyclones would get an at-large bid, it ended on Saturday, when Iowa State knocked off Baylor to clinch the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament. They now have four top-50 wins, including victories over Kansas and a sweep of Kansas State. The soft non-conference schedule was a question mark for a bit, but there's no keeping out Iowa State anymore.

Helped itself

West Virginia picked up a big bubble win by defeating South Florida. (AP)

West Virginia: The Mountaineers had the biggest bubble win in the first few hours of Saturday, going into South Florida and knocking off the Bulls in the final minutes. The win gets West Virginia to .500 in the Big East, and is their fourth top-50 win of the season. The bubble pecking order in the conference is completely up in the air, but two wins in the Big East tournament would likely get a bid for West Virginia.

Connecticut: The Huskies simply couldn’t lose to Pittsburgh on Saturday, unless they had plans to make a run to the Big East title game. It wasn’t pretty, but Connecticut pulled out a win in the final two minutes. 8-10 in the Big East doesn’t look great, but the Huskies have five top-50 wins, including victories over fellow bubblers South Florida, Seton Hall and West Virginia. The No. 2-ranked SOS is also a huge plus. They will need a couple of wins in the Big East tourney as well.

Dayton: Beating George Washington isn’t going to get the Flyers in the dance, but it keeps their hopes alive heading into the conference tournament. They have three top-30 RPI wins over Temple, Alabama and Saint Louis, as well as a win over bubbler Xavier. Nine top-100 wins are more than most bubble teams can say. On the negative side, the computer profile is mediocre and they have three sub-100 losses. They might need a marquee win in the A-10 tournament; could that mean a trip to the title game?

Cincinnati: For the first time in nearly a decade, the Bearcats went into Villanova and came out with a win. They improve to 12-6 in the Big East, including six top-50 wins. The Bearcats should feel pretty comfortable right now, but the three sub-100 losses and the horrendous non-conference SOS still make things shaky. The RPI is slowly getting better, and one win in the Big East tournament could be enough to get the job done for Mick Cronin's crew.

Xavier:
For a while on Saturday, it looked like the Musketeers were ready to see their bubble popped. They were down at home to Charlotte, before going on a huge run in the second half and pulling out the win. Xavier is currently third in the Atlantic-10 standings, which could be helpful for the profile. It looks like they will need a semifinal win to really improve the profile, though. There are good wins over Vanderbilt and Purdue, as well as victories against bubblers Cincinnati, Dayton and Saint Joseph's. They will be an interesting case.

Northwestern:
The Wildcats escaped at Iowa, finishing at 8-10 in the Big Ten. A loss on Saturday would have ended their chances, but now they still have life heading into the Big Ten tournament. They are only 2-10 against the top 50, but suffered zero sub-100 losses and have a top-10 strength of schedule. The win over Michigan State back in January carries some weight, but there's not a ton of heft besides that victory. There is damage to be done in the tourney.

Miami (Fl.):
The Hurricanes were one of the last teams out of the field heading into the weekend, but they stayed alive with a dominant victory over Boston College. With Maryland sneaking into the top 100, Miami has four top-100 wins, including victories against Duke and Florida State. However, the 4-11 record against the top 100 is a huge eye sore and the computer profile isn't overly impressive. They need another big win for the ledger, meaning they have to win a couple games in the ACC tourney. 

Colorado State: The Rams took care of business at Air Force, avoiding a letdown after the huge win over UNLV earlier this week. Had Colorado State lost to the Falcons, most of the good vibes earned by the UNLV win would have been erased. That's irrelevant now, though. The Rams have a very solid resume, with wins over UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State, as well as a great computer profile. Moreover, Saturday's win gives them another road victory (they only have three). One in the MWC tourney should get it done. 

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs did what they needed to do to finish the season, winning their final two regular-season games and getting back to .500 in the SEC. They still have to do work in the SEC tournament, as the computer profile is mediocre. However, they do have eight top-100 wins, including victories over Vanderbilt, Alabama and fellow bubbler West Virginia. Mississippi State will need to get at least one win in the SEC tournament, and two wins would be more comforting. 

Oregon:
The Ducks continue to make a run toward at-large consideration, hammering Utah to finish 13-5 in the Pac-12. However, they are only 3-7 against the top 100 and 19 of their 22 wins are against teams ranked below 100. They are playing well at the right time, and the availability of Devoe Joseph is certainly something the committee will consider. They need to make a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament, though, as the profile is rather barren at this point.

Drexel: As the outright CAA champion, Drexel has a nice chip compared to some of the other bubble teams, but the Dragons need to get to the tournament title game to have a legitimate chance. They took the first step there by handling UNC-Wilmington in the quarterfinals. We’ll look again if they win in the semifinals.

VCU: Like Drexel, VCU needs to get to the title game to have a legitimate shot at an at-large bid. The Rams handled Northeastern on Saturday, meaning one more win would get them there. The Rams have a terrible SOS and two sub-100 losses, but they are very good away from home and did beat South Florida. The lack of meat on the resume could be a problem.

Tennessee: It seems there is another movement afoot to get the Volunteers some at-large consideration. I would still hold off on that talk, though. The computer profile is poor and they have four sub-100 losses. Even factoring in the arrival of Jarnell Stokes, the overall resume is still mediocre. With all that said, if the Vols get the No. 2 seed in the SEC tourney and make a run to the title game, things could get interesting.

Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles nearly lost to IPFW in their first game of the Summit tournament, but they pulled out a win late to keep things somewhat interesting. I still think they need to win the automatic bid to get to the NCAA tournament, but a close loss in the title game could raise some questions. Zero top-50 wins is a major problem. 

Harvard:
Could the Crimson have survived a loss to Cornell and a second-place finish in the Ivy? We came close to finding out on Saturday night, as Harvard barely pulled out a win in the season finale. Now, the Crimson will wait and see what Penn does at Princeton this week. If the Quakers win, Harvard has a one-game playoff with Penn for the automatic bid. As far as at-large consideration, the win over Florida State looks good, but the schedule is terrible. 

Hurt itself

Kevin Willard knows his Seton Hall Pirates are in trouble. (US Presswire)

Seton Hall: The biggest bubble loser of the day has to be the Pirates. Going into the week, Seton Hall was in good shape. It just had to beat Rutgers and DePaul and things would be pretty comfortable heading into the Big East tournament. Well, the Pirates lost both games, including an absolutely embarrassing performance on Saturday against the Blue Demons. Things are now very shaky for Seton Hall. The Pirates finished just 8-10 in the Big East and have three sub-100 losses. They now have to win at least two games in the conference tournament; falling short of the quarterfinals won't get it done. 

South Florida: The Bulls had a chance to get a double-bye in the Big East tournament with a home win over West Virginia, which would have looked fantastic on the resume. However, they couldn’t make plays late in the game and dropped an important one to the Mountaineers. South Florida is only 2-7 against teams ranked in the top 50, but they have a solid computer profile and 12-6 in the Big East is nothing to scoff at. They need at least one win in the conference tourney, and most likely two.

Washington: If the Huskies had won the outright Pac-12 title, it would be a heck of a chip heading into Selection Sunday. However, after their loss at UCLA on Saturday, it's likely they will need to share the championship with California. The resume on its own is far from impressive. The Huskies have yet to beat an NCAA tournament team and 18 of their 21 wins are from the sub-100 region. The computer profile isn't awful, but Saturday's loss gives them a sub-100 loss. They need to reach the title game, at the very least.

Southern Miss:
 The Golden Eagles continue to make things difficult for themselves, after losing at Marshall to drop to 11-5 in Conference-USA. The RPI is still in the top 20 and they have a 9-4 record against the top 100, but there are also three sub-100 losses. Moreover, by finishing at 11-5, there is little separation betwen Southern Miss and the rest of the league. They have work to do in the conference tournament if they want to feel comfortable come Selection Sunday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide are still very likely to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, but they missed out on a chance to truly lock themselves in by losing at Ole Miss on Saturday. Alabama has a very solid computer profile and a 9-7 SEC record, with 10 wins against the top 100. The lack of truly good wins against the top 50 is something of a wart on the resume, but it would be tough to leave Alabama out at this point. Winning one game in the SEC tournament would solidify things, though.  

Texas: I'm not sure anyone actually thought the Longhorns were going to go into Lawrence on Senior Night and knock off Kansas, but the loss hurts nonetheless. Texas drops to 3-9 against the top 50 and 4-10 against the top 100, which doesn't compare favorably with most other bubblers. They also have two sub-100 losses. Getting the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament, Texas will have a quarterfinal matchup with Iowa State. The Longhorns need to win that one to have an at-large chance. Two wins would seal the deal. 

Long Beach State: A loss in the Big West championship game is one thing, but a loss in the season finale is quite another. The 49ers dropped Saturday night's game late to Cal State Fullerton, and now enter the conference tournament in some trouble. If they lose in the championship game, I'm not sure they can survive as an at-large team. They did beat Xavier and Pittsburgh in the non-conference, but neither win is all that impressive right now. They are 0-6 vs. the top 50 and now have a bad loss on the resume.

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 3, 2012 2:29 pm
 

Tiny Dancers: UNC-Asheville

We have our first official dance participant, as UNC-Asheville knocked off VMI in the Big South championship game, 80-64. Five players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs, who dominated the second half en route to the victory.

Asheville dominated the Big South regular season for much of the campaign, losing just two games and winning the league by four games. The Bulldogs have one of the nation’s most underrated backcourts in Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm, two experienced players who have been to the NCAA tournament before. Five guys average in double-figures and they really get up and down the floor.

Located in Asheville, N.C., the Bulldogs have been to the NCAA tournament twice in the past decade, going 2-0 in “play-in” games. Eddie Biedenbach’s group is going to be a pain for whichever No. 1 seed it faces. This year’s group is better than last season’s squad, which finished third in the conference but won the automatic bid.

Player to know: Matt Dickey. The 6-foot-1 senior guard is coming off a 15-point, six-assist, five-steal performance in the title game against VMI. He’s the team’s best scorer and has topped 20 points eight times this season. Dickey averaged 21.5 points last season in Asheville’s two NCAA tournament games. 

The Vitals:

  • Record: 24-9 overall, 16-2 in the Big South
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2011, No. 16, beat Arkansas-Little Rock 81-77 in the opening round before losing 74-51 to Pittsburgh.
  • We’re thinking: 16
  • KenPom ranking: 123
  • Sagarin ranking: 128
  • RPI: 115
  • Best wins: USC-Upstate, Charleston Southern
  • Worst losses: Western Carolina, Coastal Carolina
  • Notable stat: UNC-Asheville ranks fourth nationally in free-throw percentage and fourth in free-throw rate.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 3, 2012 10:36 am
Edited on: March 3, 2012 10:36 am
 

Championship game preview: Ohio Valley

Heading into the Ohio Valley tournament, everyone wanted to see two games: Tennessee Tech against Murray State in the semifinals for a third time, and a rubber match between Murray State and Tennessee State in the championship.

We got the first one on Friday night, when Murray State dominated Tennessee Tech in the second half en route to a 20-point win. We’ll get the second one on Saturday afternoon, as the only team to beat the Racers this season gets another crack at them.

Tennessee State beat Murray State back on February 9, but lost the rematch by 18 on its home court. The Tigers advanced to the title game by beating Morehead State in the semifinals, 59-52.

The key for Tennessee State will be forcing turnovers and limiting Murray State’s trips to the free-throw line. The Racers love to attack the rim and get easy opportunities at the charity stripe. On the other side, the Tigers have to take care of the ball and grab offensive rebounds for second chances. In the first meeting, Tennessee State had 15 steals; in the second one, just three.

If Murray State doesn’t win, it will still get an at-large bid, so bubble teams will be rooting for the Racers to hold serve in Nashville.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:15 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 11:18 am
 

Wake Forest dismisses senior Ty Walker

By Jeff Borzello

Wake Forest senior Ty Walker missed the first nine games of the season after being suspended for the first semester.

Walker will now also miss the final game of the season and the ACC tournament after being dismissed from the Demon Deacons for a violation of rules.

“Unfortunately it has become necessary to suspend Ty Walker indefinitely for a violation of departmental policy,” head coach Jeff Bzdelik said, according to the Winston Salem-Journal.

Walker is a 7-footer who came out of high school with a lot of promise. He never truly lived up to that reputation, peaking this season during the 20 games he was on the floor. Walker averaged 4.2 points and 4.6 rebounds, but did rank near the top of the ACC in blocked shots, at 2.6 per game.

Walker had been suspended in early September for violation the student conduct code. He will remain in school and is expected to graduate in May.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com